Personal Development is a journey. As with every journey, there are traps along the way. Here I’ll be sharing some that I’ve fallen into or that I’ve managed to avoid.
Trap #1: Obsession
The first danger is turning this journey into an obsession or an addiction. This is different than it simply being an interest, which is fine, or a passion, even better.
But if you feel like you’re doing personal development to run away for something or just to have something to do, rethink your priorities and the reasons why you’re doing this.
I’ve fallen into this trap before, not just with personal development. I’ve also become almost anorexic due to my obsession with “healthy” eating. But for PD, I went through a phase where I was obsessed with it, and everyone around me could see that it wasn’t healthy for me. I would have seen the same thing if I had been honest with myself.
Now, PD is a passion of mine, and I know when I’m turning it into an obsession. It’s like your ego gets addicted to this one thing, and your life is centered around that thing, and if anyone attacks, you defend.
Trap #2: Judgement
This is associated with the first trap. Basically, when you become obsessed with anything or subscribe too much to one paradigm, you tend to get very judgmental about others. Which no one wants.
The important thing here is to remain open-minded. Realize that PD is just one of many paradigms through which to see the world, and not everyone subscribes to that one. And that’s fine. They don’t have to.
If you want to take it a step further, you could even start to question personal development. What’s the proof that it’s the right way to see the world? This will start to make your mind very tranquil and unaggressive, because you won’t have anything to defend.
Trap #3: Individuality
This is more a of a basic trap. This also happened to me when I first got into pickup. You know how everyone in that community says “Don’t care what other people think of you?” (Actually, you hear that a lot in self-help circles as well). Well, your ego can take that use it as an excuse to be a real insensitive dick.
Basically, the individuality that comes with pickup and self-help can be taken to such a degree that you’re inconsiderate. But one of the goals of personal development is compassion and love. How do you strike the balance between compassion and people-pleasing? That’s a tough one to answer… Know that over time, it will work itself out.
Trap #4: Getting stuck at lower levels of PD
Most people get into PD for the outward success: money, health, relationships… I know, because I did too! What people fail to understand at the beginning is that these are the lower levels, and they’re only here to provide the groundwork from which to move to the higher levels: all the inner work, questioning, contemplating, and being, that have to be done. This is where the real juice can be squeezed out of the lemon, and it’s the most satisfying life ever!
Many people don’t even know that there are higher levels! They keep operating under the old paradigm of outward success = inner happiness. Which is simply false. And they get caught in that endless cycle.
Understand: The only reason people go through these levels on the PD journey is to be ABLE to do the deeper work. I mean, how effective will you be at meditating if you’re stressed out about paying rent?
If you’re still at these levels, that’s cool. They are necessary. Just realize you will eventually have to move past them.
Trap #5: Misinterpreting Information
This is a biggie. This happens when your ego hears advice for someone more or less advanced than you and uses it to justify its own actions.
For instance: You’re a people-pleaser, and you hear someone say that you need to be more compassionate and do benevolent service to the world. But what you don’t understand is that they’re talking to people more advanced than you who have surpassed people-pleasing. They are now too individualistic, and need to be more compassionate.
The problem here is that you have an unhealthy paradigm of love. The people-pleaser thinks that doing benevolent service will get him love from others. It is a selfish motive. The person talking about compassion has moved past this and can truly be compassionate without wanting anything in return.
The same situation arises with determinism and victimhood. Let’s say you’re a victim, but you hear some spiritual teacher talking about no one having free will. Your ego will misinterpret that and justify itself: “See, I don’t have free will, so of course I’m doomed to be a victim.” Again, this teacher was talking to people further ahead of you.
This is one of the main difficulties of personal development: knowing which advice to listen to, because it can be contradictory depending on the level you’re at. This is why it’s difficult to effectively grow through impersonal means like these posts or videos, because we can’t tailor the advice to your problems. (It’s not impossible to grow: I’m just saying you will probably run into this trap a few times).
The best cure for this is just being honest with yourself, and honest with what you need to be focusing on.